El Niño Likely to Bring Unfamiliar Fish to West Coast


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Service (NOAA) predicts that El Niño will likely begin by August, and although experts opinions’ differ on how strong the weather event will be, many say that warm water temperatures will bring unfamiliar fish species to the West Coast. Anglers in California can expect fish normally found off the coast of Mexico such as yellowfin tuna and dorado, and even other exotic species such as striped marlin and hammerhead sharks.

“In non-El Niño years, upwelling of deep, cold ocean water brings up nutrients that lie near the bottom. Fish living in the upper waters feed plankton that are dependent on these nutrients,” stated the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Kelp forests also depend on cool, nutrient-rich water for survival and growth. An El Niño reduces the upwelling of cold water off the coast of the Americas. When this happens, fish either die or migrate into areas where they’ll find more to eat.”

The last massive El Niño occured in 1997-1998 when a mass of albacore greeted California anglers. Although the signs for a “monster El Niño” seem to be fading, some scientists still predict a strange and productive season for anglers.

“People are like, ‘Who needs Mexico?’” Donna Kalez, general manager of Dana Wharf Sportfishing, told GrindTv.com. “You should see our public launch ramp. It’s the longest line we’ve seen in 10 years.”

Orange County’s Dana Point has been swarmed by anglers on the hunt for yellowtail, dorado, and other exotic fish. Saltwater fishing is becoming so productive that anglers who usually do not fish locally are now applying for California fishing licenses. The Fish and Wildlife Department is warning anglers, however, that they could see an exodus of white seabass and California halibut from the area.

Some California residents are also optomistic that the rains from a strong El Niño could alleviate one of the state’s worst droughts in recent memory. Unfortunately, with experts steadily predicting a weaker event, that might not happen.

“Usually a strong El Niño will bring strong rains, but the weaker ones not so much,” David Miskus, a meteorologist at the Climate Prediction Center, told Reuters.

While ocean-going anglers may be able to enjoy brisk fishing, freshwater anglers are seeing grim conditions. The latest drought report from California found that about 82 percent of the state is now in a state of extreme drought and 36 percent is in the highest category of drought severity. With such drastic conditions, it will take a significantly strong El Niño to bring any relief to California.

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